Tag Archives: Semicolon

Semicolons in Dialogue?

A while ago, I posted In Praise of the Semicolon.

I’m fond of the little fellow, but its place in writing is more restricted than I realised. I haven’t done much creative writing this year while slogging away at building this WordPress blog and a website.

From time to time, to keep my sanity, I’ve returned to a short story I started in January. Featuring my Cornish Detective, I intend to give it away to anyone who subscribes to my crime novel website. I started writing with no preconceptions, other than to explore the notion that locations can be cursed. My protagonist is several years younger than in the first novel and having just taken command of the Major Crimes Team, he’s still learning the ropes from his deputy officer, a veteran of 40 years.

They visit a place called The Sad House, an abandoned farm labourer’s cottage where a runaway teenager was found hiding. It’s been a place of murder and suicide for 200 years. Talking about the tragedies, the deputy falters telling a tale of murder-suicide. He half-finishes saying something, so I used a semicolon to mark how he completed his thoughts. It looked wrong! I changed it.

Then, that night, I was visited by the punctuation gods, for while reading a crime novel by Finnish author Antti Tuomainen the main character’s internal dialogue I saw it featured a couple of semicolons—and they looked clunky. It may have been a result of the original work being translated.

This morning, in one of the newsletters I subscribe to, there was an article about a newly published book all about the semicolon:


Image result for author cecelia Watson

Author Cecilia Watson

I like the anecdote about ‘The Semicolon Judge.’ The use of the semicolon in speech isn’t mentioned in the article, so I had a gander at Stack Exchange, finding this discussion:


It’s not an issue that I’m agonising over, but it’s strange how a semicolon or a colon in dialogue becomes intrusive. It takes away from a guideline I cleave to, that punctuation should be correct for the situation, so correct that it becomes invisible.

What do you think?

(Cripes, this is a writerly thing to talk about!)


Disappearing Dots

Some time ago, I posted a homage to the semicolon, but just recently, I’ve noticed another endangered punctuation species…they’re not really Full Stops or Periods or Ellipses, so I’m going to call them Dots—as used in abbreviations.

I first noticed their disappearance when writing one of my Cornish Detective stories. My protagonist detective’s investigation into a serial killer was interrupted by the secret services of America and the United Kingdom, who took an interest, as some of his victims worldwide had been employed by them. I went to type F.B.I. and M.I.5 and the U.S.A. and the U.K. and it all looked too dotty—interrupting the flow of reading—typing the abbreviations without dots looked wrong too! To check, I accessed the FBI and MI5 websites, and sure enough, they’ve dropped the dots, as have most government sites!

When I was taught punctuation and grammar, back in the 1960s, abbreviations were always dotted. These days, they’re fading away, though m.p.h. for speed, and the common a.m. and p.m. to denote before or after midday correctly hold onto their dots, but mm is acceptable for millimetre, and a simple C and F for Centigrade and Fahrenheit suffices.

I also found that PAYG is now used for Pay As You Go mobile phones. And, BDSM does without dots, but keeps its knots!

Overall, the trend in punctuation is for a cleaner look, partly through laziness, avoiding having to hit an irksome key by pressing Shift. This simplification has affected other punctuation marks. It’s long been common for American speech marks to be a single ‘, while Brits used a double . I was taught that the single mark was specifically for use when quoting what someone had said in the past, while double marks indicated speech for those present in the scene. Nowadays, it’s unusual to see double speech marks.

No one wants to put readers off by a page filled with a blizzard of squiggles, dots, curves and dashes so the simpler way of writing things might be a good move—provided it doesn’t cause confusion over the information being imparted.

Have you noticed any trends in punctuation?

I’ve discovered where the missing dots are going! Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama is famed for her colourful paintings, sculptures and installations featuring thousands of dots!